Engineers Should Help With Recruiting (Interviewing Is No Longer Enough)

Recruiters have long used their engineering colleagues for candidate interviewing, but these days recruiters should be enlisting engineers for a lot more than that. The technical hiring landscape is blisteringly competitive, with tech behemoths snatching up scores of the strongest candidates. Partnering with engineers can be a recruiter’s secret weapon. Here are some ways to use your company’s technical talent to help you compete with the big guys:

  1. Take engineers on the road (but not to career fairs). If you’re hiring college candidates, take engineers to campus with you — just not to career fairs, unless they’re really special ones, because generally career fairs are a waste of engineers’ precious time. However, their time is very well spent attending and — better yet — judging technical competitions and hackathons, meeting strong candidates for 1:1 coffee chats, hosting and speaking at tech talks, and even guest lecturing in technical classes. These activities use the engineers’ time well and elevate your company’s presence on campus. If you’re seeking out experienced technical candidates, send your engineers to technical conferences, meetups, and special interest groups not only to brush up on their own technical skills but also to network with potential candidates.
  1. Turn engineers into sourcers. Some technical talent is obvious: if a candidate has an impressive academic record or work record, recruiters will recognize that right away. Engineers, however, can source for the talented but less obvious candidates. They will recognize hidden gems in a candidate’s profile that no recruiter could. By including engineers in online screening, you’ll find strong candidates you otherwise wouldn’t have found, and as an added bonus, those candidates will be less obvious to other recruiters as well.
  1. Tap engineers for referral sources. Tap into your engineering colleagues’ networks. Ask them to reach out beyond their obvious networks of former classmates and work colleagues to loose contacts as well, like former advisors, lab directors, professors, teaching assistants, and teammates from technical clubs and competitions who may not be looking for jobs themselves but may be in touch with people who are.
  1. Use engineers as door openers. Bright engineers want to work with other bright engineers. Enlist engineers to send out initial recruiting messages to particularly strong candidates who may be flooded with recruiting requests and may ignore most outreach directed their way. Engineers are more likely to respond to blind requests from a fellow engineer than they are from a recruiter, especially if the engineer has a particularly impressive background or shares experiences, like an alma mater or a hobby, with the prospect.

Obviously, engineers in your firm are busy, and getting buy-in to use them in the recruiting process is something that needs to happen at the senior leadership levels of your firm. But if you’re trying to hire the best, getting engineers to prioritize recruiting isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity.


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  • John DePolo

    There are some great recommendations here, Jessica. I’ve used all of these methods for a number of years. What is also quite useful is to get your engineers to attend professional symposia (IEEE events and the like) where a number of technical papers are being presented. It is a great way to learn more about what is going on within a technical subset of the field, and also to meet the presenters.

    I have attended as a company representative and prodded my engineering teams to go meet with the presenters and get their business cards for future reference. It is particularly useful in emerging technologies. Thank you for writing this!

    John DePolo
    Managing Partner
    Cornell Strategy Solutions
    (919) 595-0700